Experimental work on resource dilemmas was instigated by the classical essay of Hardin (1968), who brought the implications of the conflict between short-term self-interest and long-term collective interest to the attention of the scientific community. The tragedy of the commons that Hardin described is by now well known. There is a pasture open to all and a group of herdsmen, each of whom tries to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. The herdsmen will achieve their goals if the total herd is smaller than the carrying capacity of the land. But when social stability becomes a reality, “the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy” (Hardin, 1968, p. 1244). When comparing the positive utility of adding one more animal to his herd to the disutility of overgrazing created by one more animal, a rational herdsman would conclude that the only sensible course of action is to increment his herd by one more animal. When each and every herdsman sharing the commons reaches this conclusion, the inevitable result will be a social catastrophe.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 1992 Pergamon Press Ltd.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Psychology